Friday 3rd April, 2020
Bula Vinaka, Namaste, Assalamo-alaikum and Noa’ia e mau’ri. The COVID-19 pandemic has everyone on the edge. We are going through some extremely trying times. The paradigm has shifted and what was considered normal just a few weeks back is something that we fondly look upon with nostalgia. The war against COVID-19 dictates that we adopt and adapt to the new normal very quickly for the benefit of our loved ones and indeed humanity in general. It requires us to follow a set of very simple guidelines with the emphasis on physical and social distancing plus hygiene in general. To implement this at the population level, we must listen, adhere to and, advocate for the messages from the highest echelons of Parliament which is guided by sound evidence and advice from the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the World Health Organisation.
This is the time for solidarity within our profession as it comes under attack due to the ignorance and bad judgment of some individual(s) who thought that it was a good idea to release sensitive, confidential information to social media platforms. This is certainly a conduct that is unbecoming of a Civil Servant. As Doctors, we proudly utter the Hippocratic Oath and one of the key components of this oath is “I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know”. Sadly this was torn to shreds by the actions of what can be best labeled in our current context as traitors. It has unwarrantedly shed a bad light on our Profession although it may not be a health professional who may have been the culprit. This matter is now with the officers of the law and the investigations will follow its due course. It is important that we remember that most of us are employees and there a set of rules and regulations that we signed off to. The majorities of the Doctors in Fiji are employed by the Ministry of Health and therefore are bound by the Public Service Commission code of conduct. Irrespective of the situation, these codes are guiding principles that must be abided by at all times. There is a hierarchy that exists and a defined chain of communication that must be followed. This is especially important during this current predicament that we are in as the public at large has put us under the microscope and if we deviate from the guidelines, then the public perceive this as a weakness and as a result the messages that MOH is sending out gets diluted. It may lead to them not following critical advice and this in turn promotes propagation of COVID-19.
The above applies to the use social media. Social media in its essence was created to connect friends and family so they may be able to socialize digitally even if they are in different regions of the world. Sadly, its use has a dark side and an under belly has emerged where social media platforms are used to promote hate, anarchy and misinformation. We must rise above the negative use of social media and constantly remind ourselves of our roles and responsibility as employees of MOH. It is a cardinal sin to speak ill of your employer or your work setting in social media. It is a cardinal sin to spread false, inflammatory information that causes panic amongst the masses. These actions will not go unnoticed as MOH takes these matters seriously and those implicated may be taken to task. Fiji Medical Association is here for your welfare but if there is a blatant breach of the PSC codes of conduct then MOH has the full right to pursue the matter. The implications can be devastating such as suspension or even termination so I plead with you all to use social media wisely and judiciously and always question yourself before sending out your posts to the public domain.
Brothers and Sisters let us show unity, solidarity and be the vessel that we need to be to beat COVID-19. Let us all show maturity and leadership as we are all put under the microscope in these trying times. Let us be the shining examples that will inspire the public at large to take heed.
Vinaka vakalevu, Khuda Hafiz, Daniyabaad and Fa’eksia
Dr Basharat Munshi
Fiji Medical Association